Oil or Water Based: What's the Right Product for You? – Activist Skincare

Oil or Water Based: What's the Right Product for You?


Oil or Water Based: What's the Right Product for You?

Oil is making a major comeback in skincare. Once considered a luxurious natural indulgence fit for queens like Cleopatra, then shunned for fear it would clog pores and exacerbate acne, oil is once again considered a skincare "do" for everything from cleansing with oil to moisturizing.

Oil-based products help strengthen your skin's protective lipid barrier, which protects your inner layers of skin from the hazards of pollution, dry air and UV rays. Oils also help seal in moisture, soothe sensitive skin, and impart a lovely sensual texture.


Oil is a skincare "do" for everything from cleansing to moisturizing.

But the rising popularity of botanical oils doesn't mean water-based products are out of vogue. For example, hyaluronic acid, one of the "it" ingredients in skincare for its supreme moisturization properties, is only available in water-based formulations. And water is the absolute best source of hydration for dry skin. (Learn more about why an oil based product can never replace this function in our blog post Why Facial Oils Aren't the Magic Bullet for Dry Skin.)

So when it comes to designing a balanced skin care regimen, the two keys are (1) incorporating both hydration and lipid barrier protection, and (2) identifying which active ingredients you need, and their solubility (whether they dissolve better in oil or water).

oil based serum water based serum
Hyaluronic Acid Serum (water-based):
available in Signature, $59 or Custom, $89
Precious Oils Serum (oil-based):
available in Signature, $59 or Custom, $89

What ingredients does your skin need the most?

For example, someone with UV damage including sun spots, fine lines and wrinkles could benefit from ingredients such as alpha lipoic acid and coenzyme Q10, both of which are oil soluble and require an oil-based serum for delivery.

A great complement to these ingredients would be a water-based serum for the delivery of water-soluble ingredients like vitamin C or niacinamide. The water-based serum would work well during the day mixed with a tinted moisturizer or worn under makeup, and the oil-based serum would work well at night.

That's why we offer and recommend both an oil-based and water-based serum. Together, they allow you the benefit of the full range of available active ingredients, depending on your skin type.

water based serum oil based serum
Hyaluronic Acid Serum (water-based):
available in Signature, $59 or Custom, $89
Precious Oils Serum (oil-based):
available in Signature, $59 or Custom, $89

Do you have oily or dry skin?

Another consideration is the skin's oil level. Those with normal and dry skin can certainly benefit from the use of an oil-based product daily, whether morning, night or both. Those with excessively oily skin may wish to avoid wearing oil-based products during the day to avoid a shiny look, but should realize that using oil-based serums as well as oil-based cleansers are ideal ways to soothe skin that has been made sensitive from the use of aggressive anti-acne or astringent products.


We believe that everyone's skin is different and deserves to be treated individually.

At Activist, we believe that everyone's skin is different and deserves to be treated individually. For the majority of people, a balanced regimen incorporating both oil- and water-based products will work very well. But the main consideration must be identifying the active ingredients needed to address each individual's unique skincare needs.

We can help with this: personalized advice and custom made-to-order skincare is our speciality.

oil and water based serums


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